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Cinemagraph Saigon: District 1

Saigon is a city with plenty of stories. With an accounted population of almost 10 million, the city is vibrant, diverse and full of energy. People from all walks of life from across Vietnam, and the world, have come to this city seeking opportunities, resulting in a very diverse, cosmopolitan society. District 1 is perhaps, the most widely known district in Saigon. With a majority of hotels, restaurantsbarsclubs and other tourist attractions in the vicinity, this district is also where most tourists and expats can be found. Most stories about District 1 focus on the attractions, but beyond that, there are other aspects that make this area interesting.


One of the largest markets and earliest surviving structures in Saigon, and a prominent landmark on its own, Ben Thanh Market is full of colours, and a place tourists can find handicrafts, textiles and local cuisine. Originally established by the French colonial regime in 1859, the market was destroyed by a fire in 1870 and was rebuilt to become the city’s largest market. In 1912, the market was moved to a new building and renamed the New Ben Thanh Market; it was renovated in 1985 to the structure people visit today.


The area is a tapestry of colours, chaos, noise, good food, curious tourists and locals hawking random goods.

Street Food

Ubiquitous across the city, and more so in District 1, people descend upon these streets to check out offerings like banh trang nuongbanh xeo and other delicacies from not just the “official” stalls in the area, but also street vendors selling treats from their personal bikes.



With a public transport system that’s still developing, residents in this city rely on personal transportation to move around. As of 2016, the number of registered motorbikes stood at 7.6 million and this is fairly evident because no matter where you are in the city, you will hear the sound of a motorbike zooming by, honking at something or will feel one just narrowly brushing past you on a sidewalk. And in District 1, the sight of rows of bikes parked outside a cafe or restaurant on sidewalks is as common as daylight.



Due to the high population density of the city, open spaces are few and far between. Besides the few parks scattered across other districts in the city, there are spaces within District 1 where locals and expats like to gather and stop for a breather. One such space is the walking boulevard, colloquially termed “Nguyen Hue”, sandwiched between Nguyen Hue and Dong Khoi streets.


42 Nguyen Hue, also known as “the cafe apartment”, is a distinct structure in the heart of District 1. Originally developed as a residential apartment complex, it somehow evolved into a home for small businesses such as cafes and clothing stores. Popular among young locals and tourists, the building stands out in the area with its colourful appearance and, of course, the variety of cafes and boutiques people use to escape the weather and to find a range of locally designed apparel and accessories.


The building made the news last year as authorities announced plans to evict the tenants, as according to Vietnam’s law on residential spaces, businesses cannot be held in residential apartment units.


Urban, Yet Natural

District 1 is full of roads, buildings, construction sites, more roads and more buildings — it’s essentially a concrete jungle. However, little specks of green can still be found, scattered around. Although trees are being uprooted and relocated for new infrastructural projects, there’s no stopping a few random specks of green from existing to remind us all that they still matter.


Modern, Yet Traditional

The most prominent observation about District 1, and what makes it unique, is how it smoothly integrates tradition with modern living. From street vendors in non la walking past a skyscraper, to ladies clad in the ao dai sipping a latte at a coffee place to bicyclists sharing the road with motorbikes, buses and a random Ferrari.





The whole industry of backpacking has exploded in recent years, with hundreds of holiday companies now vying for the very lucrative business of providing budget holidays to a mainly young clientele, especially before the pandemic. The main aim of their target audience is, of course, to see those special places in the world that used to be the preserve of the ultra-rich. It is not so many years ago that the idea of a young student from the UK travelling to Vietnam, Thailand or Cambodia was almost unthinkable. Slowly but surely that image has been erased from the travel landscape. Bangkok alone receives 18 million visitors per year and a huge number of them are backpackers.


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So in this brave new world of budget travel, how does the Saigon backpacker district stand up against the other hotspots in the region? The area between the parallel streets of Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien has become the mecca for backpackers, but it is currently undergoing the biggest change it has witnessed in years after the pandemic. It always has been a busy, overcrowded place where many expats never venture, it will be interesting to see how these changes affect things.

Pham Ngu Lao is not unique in Southeast Asia

Thailand’s Khao San Road has for years been the most well known backpacker street in Southeast Asia. I lived in Bangkok for almost five years and went once. It is shall we say, not for me. It’s a seething, noisy mass of humanity where just about anything can be bought; watches, foreign and Thai driving licences, any kind of official paperwork, including passports, and all fake of course. Knock-off DVDs and girls, everything comes at a knockdown price.

Pub Street in Siem Reap gets a bad press. Sure, it’s the epicentre of backpacker nightlife in the town, but it all works rather well to be honest. Angkor What? is the most well known bar among the young and penniless, but the street has much more to offer. Here the backpackers, tourists and expats all mingle perfectly well. During the day the street is the best place to get good food at a good price and there is a lot of variety.

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In Jakarta, the area around Jalan Jaksa is where it’s all at for backpackers. The area is quite small, which you would expect as Jakarta isn’t normally the first word on a backpacker’s lips when travelling to Southeast Asia. By comparison Bali, which is a tiny fraction of the size of Indonesia’s capital, receives far more travellers. On the island of Bali just about everywhere is Backpackerville.


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In Laos, prices are so cheap that it never really had a backpacker area as such. Vang Vieng developed into a monster backpacker draw due to the river tubing. Many illegal bars sprung up and the behaviour of the travellers grew worse by the month. Zip lines and swings were erected and the whole place became an accident waiting to happen. Nobody had to wait long after many serious accidents including a lot of high profile deaths occurred, and the government stepped in and closed it down. Tubing is still enjoyed now, but on a much smaller scale and in a more sensible manner.

So what of Saigon’s Backpacker District?

Three years ago, take a trip down Bui Vien at night and you would come across a seething sea of humanity. By day of course it’s mainly shops, massage parlours and travel agencies but at night it still today transforms into an immense street party. Small impromptu bars spring up and thousands of people pour in for cheap beer and fun.


Then in March 2014 the government decided that they were going to claim the pavements back. The thousands of tiny plastic chairs that spilled out into the road were cleared, as were the hundreds of parked motorbikes. Overnight Bui Vien became an almost normal street again. As part of the new regulations, all sidewalk shops on Pham Ngu Lao, Bui Vien, De Tham, and Do Quang Dau were forced to shut down at night. The edict was issued by Le Thanh Tuan, chairman of the People’s Committee of Pham Ngu Lao District.


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Whether this was in light of the upsurge in street crime that undoubtedly happened or not is unclear. But whereas three year ago the plastic chairs spilled way past the pavements and almost completely blocked the road. Now it is entirely different. It is still chaotic, but nowhere near on the scale that it used to be. Many of the bars in Saigon are still here, but it has changed, and the local client definitely is the main market now.


During the pandemic Bui Vien closed almost completely, and most business died. Now, it is being reborn into something else again. Several long standing bars that generally catered for expats and holidaymakers alike have closed or been sold. The 24 hour Universal Bar which was always a centre of attraction for the late night mid-week football crowd has been sold and turned into a Pho restaurant and bar.


Another real Saigon institution, The Spotted Cow operated by the Al Fresco Group closed its doors and has been swallowed up by the bar next door and turned into a large modern sports bar. The ‘Cow’ was one of the best bars in Saigon. It’s ok now, but it will never be the same. This is a huge loss for the expats and travellers as this was definitely the busiest bar in the entire city for watching the weekend English Premier League matches.


It is now twice the size that it used to be and yet the one area that needed a massive update, the toilets, has been left exactly the same. The Al Fresco group recently opened the new Thao Dien Sports Pub and many of the staff have transferred there. Whereas the Spotted Cow was terrific for fans of English football, the new venue is a very Australian centric sports bar.


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The whole of Pham Ngu Lao area is changing but it remains the centre for backpackers in Saigon, and that doesn’t look like it’s changing anytime soon. There is just so much to do here and all at a budget price. Beers at half a dollar and food for about the same make for a huge draw for those on a budget.


The local September 23 Park is a great place to sit during the day, though not the safest place after dark. The shops are excellent as are the bars and restaurants. The Saigon Backpacker district has a different feel to other parts of the city. You’ll either love it or hate it.




It’s a dry and hot weekday morning and you’ve just landed at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Saigon and your next flight is over 24 hours later, or maybe you’re just here for a quick day trip. How are you going to spend your day in this city? If you manage your time well, you can have a pretty eventful day trying new dishes, bargaining great deals at a traditional market, visiting colonial buildings, museums and pagodas, and finally sampling the nightlife. You may even have time to venture beyond district 1, which is where you’ll probably spend the most time, to explore more sights. Here is our little guide on how you can spend your 24 hours in Saigon.


Best ways to go around Ho Chi Minh City

The great thing about Saigon is that unlike most other cities, the airport in Saigon is actually in Saigon (at least for now). Once you reach the city center from the airport, which would take you about 35 minutes, you will need to decide how to go from one activity to the other.

If you can stand the heat and are in good shape, you can probably just walk. Unlike many other cities in Southeast Asia, there are large sidewalks in the city and the streets are rather clean and safe but always practise caution, especially during rush hours when you get vehicles mounting the sidewalks to break away from the jams. Crossing the roads may also be a life-changing experience for someone not used to the intensity and chaos of the traffic here but don’t worry, just avoid making these mistakes.


Image source: Men Clothes

If you prefer a more comfortable way to go around, you can hire taxis for a very affordable price (usually about 1.5 dollar for a 5 minute ride). You can estimate your travel cost on Vinasun (White) and Mailinh (Green) (Android app) are your best choices. Note that the more common 7-seater cars are slightly more expensive than the 5-seater sedans.


Alternatively, you can use Gojeck or Grab, which allow you to set the destination for a fixed price, which is usually cheaper than regular taxis unless there’s a price surge. The advantage of this is you get to bypass any communication issues you may encounter with a regular taxi driver. Last but not least, you can use BusMap if you want to do travel by public bus. 


If you’re not afraid of two-wheelers, you can zoom around on a motorbike taxi also called xe om, which is generally faster than cars but a little tricky to recognize because they don’t always have a distinctive sign. Or, you can use the motorbike variants of Grab and Gojeck.

Vietnamese cuisine is one of the best in the World and you can find plenty of options on the streets. For about US$1-2 you can enjoy Saigon’s most popular dishes such as com tam or hu tieu. Of course, there’s also pho, bot chien, and many others. If you like eating while on the go, you can get a banh mi, a Vietnamese sandwich that you will probably rave about to your friends back home. And of course, don’t forget to get coffee. Vietnam has a huge coffee culture. Get a ca phe sua da (iced coffee with condensed milk) or if you’re feeling adventurous, ca phe da (iced black coffee). Those things are potent.



Once you’re well caffeinated, make your way to Chinatown in District 5 to see the old Saigon. Wander the streets and alleyways until you end up at Cho Lon Market. Sure, Ben Thanh Market is mentioned in every guidebook, but you can’t beat the hidden gems at local prices at Cho Lon.

War Remnants Museum

After you’ve navigated your way through the market, head to the War Remnants Museum. Once known as the Museum of Chinese and American War crimes, this museum documents the brutality of war. The visuals over there can be pretty jarring for some but it really is all just a matter of perspective.

French Colonial City Center

From the museum, head back to District 1. Here you’ll find great examples of French colonial architecture. Grab a croissant as you people-watch in the park across from the Notre Dame Cathedral, or take a walk down the Book Street, which is exactly what it is, a street lined up with bookstores. While you’re at it, don’t miss the Opera House, the People’s Committee Building (the former City Hall) and the Central Post Office.

central-post-office -

Massage in a Day Spa

By this time, your feet may be a little sore. Pamper yourself by going into any of the nearby spas and relax with a foot massage. They’re cheap and well worth the time to sit back and take refuge from the heat.


Fine Vietnamese Dining.

You may have tried street food earlier, now explore the other side of the spectrum – fine dining. Saigon has plenty of fine-dining establishments with a wide range of cuisines available and since you’re here, why not try Vietnamese food in a fine-dining setting?


Experience Saigon Nightlife

After dinner, see Saigon from one of the many rooftop bars. If you’re looking for a good conversation, Social Club Rooftop Bar at Hotel des Arts is a good bet, but if you like music, check out AIR Skybar Saigon or for a more relaxing time, The Lighthouse or Broma. If you’re looking for a clubbing experience, Lush would be a good bet.


AIR Skybar Saigon -

If you still have a lot of energy, you can finish your 24-hour visit early morning the next day in the backpacker district at Bui Vien. From then, why not try one of Saigon’s best late night eateries? If you are travelling in Saigon for 3 days, you can read: 72 hours in Saigon, otherwise, hopefully this list comes in handy for you should you decide to spend a day here.




For the well-travelled culture connoisseur, Ho Chi Minh City is a sheep in wolf’s clothing. On the surface, it’s rough around the edges. But beneath the heat, pollution and organised chaos is a unique place full of one-of-a-kind gems that unveil the city’s heritage. In this quickly expanding city, knowing where to begin can be overwhelming. Especially if you are looking to dive deeper than the typical things-to-see for tourists. That’s why we put together this three-day itinerary for anyone itching to chart a course less travelled and see the best of the city’s rich history and culture.



Friday: A Museum Marathon and Some Old-Fashioned Opulence

9 am:

Start your trip with a fresh coconut at the Tao Dan park sculpture garden, where you can discover local art history as you stroll along meandering pathways lined with some of the city’s oldest trees and modernist sculptures. You’ll need caffeine to get you through this day, so consider heading to a nearby local coffee shop like Highland, Trung Nguyen, or Phuc Long Coffee shops for a jolt of Vietnamese coffee specials.
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11 am:

Once fueled-up, jump straight into the city’s war-time history by exploring the popular Reunification Palace—the centrefold of the fall of Saigon in 1975.


Image source: Propaganda restaurant

12:30 pm:

A taste of Vietnam’s famous food culture is mere steps away at Quan An Ngon 138. The Chinese pagoda-style restaurant takes you on a culinary voyage across Vietnam’s vast and flavourful food landscape by dishing up high-quality, authentic favourites from different regions of the country.


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2:00 pm:

After lunch, hail a cab to Hung Kings’ Temple, which is located across the same plaza as the Museum of Vietnamese History and the Saigon Botanical Gardens. Completed in 1929, the Hung Kings’ Temple honours fallen heroes with exquisite masonry and architecture. The 2,000 square metre National History Museum is home to plenty of artifacts of ethno-cultural significance.


4:00 pm:

Head back along Lê Duẩn street, a wide tree-lined boulevard that passes through ‘consulate row’. Pass the heavily guarded American Consulate, the stunning colonial style Consulate Générale de France, and the recently opened German behemoth, Deutsches Haus. Turn left on Hai Ba Trung, and wander down Saigon’s quaint, pedestrian-only Book Street.

5:30 pm:

A day of exploring can be tiring so after some browsing, we recommend quenching your thirst for haute culture with an aperitif at the majestic RuNam d’Or villa. From your happy hour vantage point, you can see two beautiful, if typical, stops on the Saigon tourist map—the Saigon Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral.

Source: RuNam D'or - Les Rives Vietnam

7:00 pm:

Cruise over to Propaganda restaurant for contemporary Vietnamese cuisine alongside vintage Viet Cong propaganda art.

9:00 pm:

After dinner, indulge in 1930s-style Saigonese luxury. Have a drink in the cigar lounge at the Hôtel Des Arts Social Club, then head one floor up to take in the breathtaking rooftop view.


Saturday: War Remnants, Feminist Fighters and Religious Relics

9 am:

Kick off day two with a carefully crafted cup of artisanal coffee from Fugashin Shoemaker & Coffee. The baristas are coffee artists who bring you along for every step from grinding the beans to sipping. Right across the street is the War Remnants Museum, a painful but necessary journey to gain understanding of the brutal American War.

12:30 pm:

For lunch, rejuvenate your senses with the fusion vegetarian cuisine of Prem Bistro and Café, which offers a tranquil, Tibetan-style ambience as an escape from the heat.


Source: Les Rives Vietnam - Authentic River Experience

2 pm:

After you’ve had your fill, explore Vietnam’s history through the eyes of inspirational local women at the Southern Women’s Museum. The Museum highlights some of Vietnam’s strongest female personalities throughout history including age-old matriarchal leaders and some of the fiercest wartime heroes.


4 pm:

The next stop on our list was the high-class Salon Saigon. This gallery and performance space showcased the artistic prowess of contemporary Vietnamese Artists. Unfortunately, it closed in 2021. You may visit instead the not too far and well know Craig Thomas Gallery specializing in qualitative Vietnamese artist’s work.


Just down the street is one of the Ho Chi Minh City’s grandest statements dating back to Saigon’s French Colonial roots: The Archbishop’s Palace. Moved in 1946 from its original 1790 birthplace, the well-maintained mansion is still a colonial site to behold.


7 pm:

For this evening’s meal, feast your five senses at Hoi An Sense, a restaurant that takes cultural fine dining to a new level. Central Vietnamese delights are served alongside traditional Vietnamese music and dance performances.


Source: Les Rives Vietnam - Authentic River Experience

9 pm:

To cap off the night, treat yourself to a cocktail at Sky Garden Rooftop lounge, courtesy of the 5-star Rex Hotel. The hotel was the infamous location of the American military’s daily war conferences. Though the rooftop is low compared to today’s high-rise standards, you’ll have a view of the Saigon Opera House and the People’s Committee Hall. But be warned, outside of happy hour the drinks tab can be quite high.


Source: Les Rives Vietnam - Authentic River Experience

Sunday: Musical Overtures and a River Finale

8 am:

Don’t miss the weekly free live music in front of the Opera House. The Opera House is the premier jewel of French colonial architecture in the city, boasting a repertoire of performances that’s easily on par with international standards.


Source: Les Rives Vietnam - Authentic River Experience

9 am:

Today’s recommended breakfast and coffee is just a stone’s throw away at the Caravelle hotel. This lavish hotel is lovely to look at but more importantly it housed the Australian and New Zealand embassies during the 1960s as well as being the nerve centre for many of the major American television networks.


10 am:

The last museum on this list of cultural gems is one you shouldn’t miss! Saigon’s Fine Arts Museum has three floors of extensive exhibits that take you on a journey through Vietnam’s rich art history, with rotating installations including everything from contemporary and political art to Cham, Indian, and Khmer artifacts dating as far back as 600 AD.


12 pm:

For a post-museum snack and coffee, check out Cà Phê Cô Ba, a local favorite coffee house known for its vintage and comfortable interior design and affordable drinks.


1:45 to 6:15 pm:

It’s been a full few days. What better way to see the rest of the city than a jeep and river boat tour? Les Rives offers a comprehensive tour of the town that includes food and refreshments. Sit back, relax, and enjoy different angles of the city along the cities waterways, while taking in a Saigon sunset.




The Saigon of today is drastically different than it was just a decade ago. As the city changes, construction sites have appeared and disappeared, leaving behind shiny glass-walled skyscrapers and contemporary buildings, turning the city into a pulsating metropolis.


As pre- and post-war buildings start to make way for new residential complexes, offices and shopping malls, the city is starting to gain a new topography. The Saigon of old was fondly described as the “Pearl of the Orient”, or the “Paris of Asia”. Whereas, many say that new Saigon is set on a fast-track to become Vietnam’s “Little Singapore”.When all is said and done and the empty lots we see all around the city are replaced with soaring skyscrapers, what will Saigon’s true identity be? And how will this be reflected in the heart of the city – District 1?


This article will highlight five familiar areas in District 1and how they will look like in the not-so-distant future.

The Saigon River

Historically, the Saigon River runs through land that was once part of the Champa Kingdom and as Vietnam turned into what it is today, the river has played a major part in the development of the city thanks to its port.


The areas bordered by the Saigon River are expected to undergo a massive revamp. Thu Thiem New Urban Development Area in District 2 is set to change the entire cityscape. Meanwhile, on the other side of the river in District 1, construction work has already begun on multiple new developments, including a new Grade A office building.


Slated to be complete in 2020, the design of the 55-storey, 240-metre tall Sun Tower was inspired by the iron treea symbol of strength, stability and wealth in Asia, according to its Singaporean developers CapitaLand.


The building’s unique architecture takes the form of artificially created terraces on its middle floors, effectively breaking the symmetry and providing a surprise splash of green, a refreshing and eye-catching element.


Trần Hưng Đạo Street

One of the busiest streets in Saigon, Trần Hưng Đạo Street runs through the centre of District 1, accessing a multitude of homes and businesses and more recently, construction sites near the Ben Thanh Market area, which are paving the way for the upcoming metro line. By 2023, expect a new 35-storey grade A office building to grace the area with Alpha Town – the central business district’s first foreign-owned development in Saigon. Inspired by the ao dai, the delicate curves of the building will provide a distinguishing landmark for tourists and locals alike.

According to its developers Alpha King Real Estate, the building will be packed with features such as facial recognition and guest enrolment systems making it the first office building in Vietnam to apply the most advanced technology of its kind currently available. Although primarily an office building, it will be accompanied by a premium integrated development called Alpha City which will feature residential spaces and a shopping mall.

Melinh Roundabout

Facing the Saigon River, with the statue of Trần Hưng Đạo in its vicinity, the area around the Melinh Roundabout is filled with a mix of modern buildings like The Myst Dong Khoi. Saigon Mehlinh Towers will be the new kid on the block when it is completed next year. The Towers are a mixed-use complex developed by Novaland and will feature two condominium towers standing at 212 metres and 220 metres respectively.


Phạm Ngũ Lão

More popularly known as the backpackers’ district, the Phạm Ngũ Lão area in District 1 is characterised by its vibrant bars and restaurants amidst the Saigon Bus Station and the 23/9 Park.


In 2020, none of that is going to change but instead, a new addition to the city’s everchanging skyscape will appear in the form of the creatively-named, Spirit of Saigon Towers. The complex is comprised of a 55 and 48-storey tower connected by a podium. The taller tower features office spaces and a hotel on its higher floors while the other tower will be mostly residential apartments.


Developed by the same team that brought us the now-iconic Bitexco Financial Tower, Spirit of Saigon Towers’ architecture pays homage to the Vietnamese myth of the Two Dragons. The podium is meant to represent its coiled tails as it rises from the land and the cantilevered tops represent the dragons’ heads. The glass ‘cubes’ on the dragons’ heads are meant to depict Vietnamese pearls in the mouths of these creatures.


Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa/Lê Lợi

One of the busiest intersections in the city that connects 4 major roads, the area is more popularly known for its current landmarks – Takashimaya and Saigon Square 1. While construction work has been fast and furious on the metro line, another high-rise development is set to make its appearance, and possibly stake its claim as the area’s new central landmark.

The development, Saigon Jewelry Center (SJC) Tower, has been conceived as a 200 metre, 52-storey building and will be a luxurious multi-purpose building complex with a trade centre, offices, apartments, restaurants and enclosed amenities for its residents. There is a literal jewel in the crown of this buildinga diamond embedded in the roof of the building.

Saigon Diamond Corporation, a Vietnamese real estate joint venture, is the developer of this project. Just like most other entries on this list, the building is expected to open in 2022.


Last but not least, another new high-rise development within the vicinity will appear in the form of a 49-storey building called Saigon Gem Tower. The mixed-use development will feature a hotel, office spaces and homes. Beyond the 49 storeys above the ground, there will also be 6 basement levels as well as 9 dedicated levels for retail.


Designed by Aedas, one of the leading architecture firms in the world who has been responsible for some of the many mind-bending building designs across China, Singapore and The United Arab Emirates, the new Saigon Gem is expected to stand out as one of the tallest buildings in the city, and yet another sign of the city’s extremely rapid economic progress. The all glass building will act as a reflection of the sky and the ever-rising buildings nearby.


With all these developments slated to be operational by the end of this decade, will District 1, and Saigon itself be able to maintain their current identities? Or will the race to the clouds forever alter the soul of Saigon?




Aside from the most famous attractions in Ho Chi Minh City, we are here to pick the coolest, most interesting and special streets for you to discover. These are all streets of a very walkable length that are packed with interesting goodies and treats. If you follow our tips, we are sure you will see, feel and experience Saigon in a way that offers a real insight into local life compared to when visiting its more well-known areas.


The Antique Street – Lê Công Kiều: An old-timey charm of Saigon

The vibe of Lê Công Kiều Street is rather surprising given its location amidst Ho Chi Minh city’s busy District 1 attractions and features like the hundred-year-old Bến Thành MarketHàm Nghi street, and the under-construction Metro Line. Despite its surroundings, Lê Công Kiều Street could be described as peaceful and nostalgic. It’s also pretty cosy – you can easily spot one end of the street from the other, just 200 meters apart.


Back in days gone by, Lê Công Kiều Street was just a minor alley, until the French changed its name to Reims Street in 2910. In 1955, Saigon’s government renamed it after an unsung hero in the French colonialism period, Lê Công Kiều – the name that it retains today. Its golden period is generally said to have spanned from 1980 until the early 2000s.


Credit: Csaba Molnar

Along Lê Công Kiều Street, you will find a truly unique vintage shopping experience. At Kiều Market, each kiosk usually specializes in one or two particular antiques, such as ceramic ware, bronze ware, or even objects of worship. The kiosks are also varied in terms of their size and goods sold – some exhibit hundreds of various types of artifacts, while others just sell old camera accessories.


Photo by: Thecrescent-apartments

A typical day at Lê Công Kiều market starts at around five in the morning and continues through until the street lights flicker on in the early evening. Some locals visit here not only to seek antiques and enjoy the nostalgic ambiance, but also to meet and talk with experts and enthusiasts who share mutual interests.


Through its ups and downs over time, Lê Công Kiều – the ‘Antique Street’ – retains its peaceful and laid back feel that’s hard to find in bustling Saigon. How to get to Lê Công Kiều Street.



The Old Book Street – Trần Nhân Tôn – where to find ‘disappearing’ books in Saigon

If you crave long-lost and forgotten gems from Vietnamese childhoods gone by, then here is the place to visit. At first, this street was only a destination for two-wheeled cart vendors to gather and sell old books and magazines while constantly in “ready to run mode” in case the police arrived (since they were often selling books illegally).


After just a few years, small to medium bookstores had popped up everywhere in the area, and by the late 1990s, there were more than 20 bookstores located on the Trần Nhân Tôn Street in District 5. Nowadays, as the street still retains 15 small bookstores, this is probably the first place for old book lovers to begin their quest.


Photo by: senachautours

If you have a chance to pass by this street, you will surely notice the attractive charm that this place has to offer. Here they sell old books, diverse in both quantity and category. Books are fairly well-organized into sections such as comics, pre-1975 magazines and famous literary works of both Vietnamese and English authors dating back to the mid-20th century. The prices are fairly reasonable, usually just half the typical cost of a new book, so this meets the diverse needs of social groups ranging from intellectuals to casual readers, from the elderly to bookworm youngsters.


When asked about the current state of the book industry, one shop owner agreed that the book business is dying, at least partially due to the domination of technology. Though sadly disappearing, there are still corners of Saigon where small shops are maintaining ‘analog’ book culture. Just as Hanoi‘s Láng Street specializes in old books, Trần Nhân Tôn Street is also loved by many keen readers, who visit the area to pursue their search for a new read.


What also attracts book lovers is the enthusiasm of the store owners. In fact, you don’t have to search for a book on your own. Just name a book or its genre, and the owner will immediately remember its location and hand you the exact one amidst thousands of other books. Just because they’re well-organized by category, it doesn’t mean things are neat.


Books are piled on shelves, bursting out of cabinets, or simply stacked on plastic chairs. Note that if you spot the book of your choice, don’t try to remove it yourself – the precariously placed book may easily fall on you if you’re not careful enough! Our tip is just to ask for help to be on the safe side. How to get to Trần Nhân Tôn Street.


Photo by: senachautours

Since 1975, Nguyễn Thiện Thuật Street in District 3 has long been known as the place to go to acquire various types of musical instruments. The great number of shops displaying alluring instruments and projecting seductive sounds and rhythms are what make this street such a hidden charm tucked away in the busy Saigon streets.


The majority of the products to be found are popular items like acoustic guitars, classical guitars and mandolins. You can also find Vietnamese ethnic versions of instruments such as oboes, flutes, clarinets, free-reed mouth organs, horns and more. Like any craftsmen, the guitar makers here trade on their reputation, and there are over 30 guitar shops on the 500-meter-long street.


According to one guitar maker, the process of making an instrument from scratch usually lasts about a month. Advanced pieces with high levels of detail can take up to four months to complete. The guitar prices here range from about USD200 to USD1,000 (VND4.5 – 22.7 million), which is quite reasonable compared to similar products in other countries. Many of the guitar craftsmen here use timber harvested from European and North American forests to make their creations, sinces Vietnamese wood and other tropical types are not so sturdy or long-lasting.


Photo by: senachautours

Nguyễn Thiện Thuật Street is home to many shops and each possesses a different strength or specialty. Some specialize in instruments, others in instrument repair. One thing they have in common, though, is the set of values and rules that they maintain. Like no other street of businesses in Saigon, the shops here don’t compete with each other; instead, they choose to help and support one another to grow and thrive.


Nguyễn Thiện Thuật Street will appeal to any guitar lover. Just spend a morning wandering around, and witness how passionate the shop owners are when speaking about guitars. Observe them cherishing every single note or teaching younger generations, and you will clearly understand the importance of embracing and preserving music to Vietnamese people. That importance is how Nguyễn Thiện Thuật Street commits itself to maintaining a lasting love for music, traditional as well as modern. How to get to Nguyễn Thiện Thuật Street.


Photo by: senachautours

The Traditional Medicine Street – Hải Thượng Lãn Ông

Nowadays, District 5‘s Hải Thượng Lãn Ông Street is well known as the “traditional medicine street”, where shoppers can purchase all different kinds of ingredients for home treatments and remedies. Before 1975, the road was named Khổng Tử (or Confucius) and renamed to Hải Thượng Lãn Ông, a famous Chinese historical figure,after Vietnam’s reunification.


The history of this special street dates back to the late 19th century, when Chinese migrants settled in the Chợ Lớn area for trading. Accordingly, precious medicinal herbs from China were also brought over to serve the needs of the Chinese community in Saigon. From there, the area gradually formed into the bustling traditional medicine street that you can find today.


Today, the area sells almost every kind of medicinal herb imaginable, sourced from all regions of the country. Some rare medicinal herbs that can not be found in Vietnam are imported from neighbouring countries, such as China, Laos, and Cambodia for trading. That’s why Hải Thượng Lãn Ông street can be considered as the biggest traditional medicine street in Vietnam, and it’s where almost all Oriental medicine hospitals across the city and the Mekong Delta region seek traditional remedies and treatments from.


Chinese medicine is well trusted by a lot of Vietnamese people, as it is said to detoxify the body and provide natural cures to many ailments, according to traditional wisdom. This is in contrast to Western medicine, which mainly focuses on improving resistance in the human body, rather than performing functional detoxification.


Over three centuries, the Oriental medicine business at Chợ Lớn area, specifically on Hải Thượng Lãn Ông Street, has undergone many ups and downs. Nowadays, Vietnamese physicians tend to combine Oriental medicine with other methods to offer what they consider to be the most effective results. How to get to Hải Thượng Lãn Ông Street.


Photo by: senachautours

The Never-Sleep Flower Street Hồ Thị Kỷ – “Little Dalat” amidst Saigon

Located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City’s District 10Hồ Thị Kỷ flower market was established in 1980 and has been Saigon’s largest flower-trading hub ever since. Flowers from all over are gathered here daily, not only to meet the demands of locals but also to spread the joy of flowers across the country.


The market is open 24 hours a day. At dawn, the market is always bustling with the transportation and setting up of flowers for the new day. The market is especially hectic when special occasions of the year approach, like Tet, Valentine’s Day, Women’s Day or Teacher’s Day in Vietnam. Hồ Thị Kỷ flower market trades hundreds of types of flowers, varied in colour and origin, be they from Dalat city or elsewhere in the country.


This “Little Dalat” is a great source to shop for fresh, beautiful flowers at a relatively low price in Ho Chi Minh City. From chamomile and marigolds to orchids, roses, and sunflowers – the flower paradise here boasts a colourful scene and wafting fragrances to attract and impress any visitor. As well as specialising in flowers, this market also sells baskets and decorations that flower lovers just can’t resist.


Come to Saigon’s Hồ Thị Kỷ flower market, especially at night – you are sure to get closer to the nature of authentic local lives and witness the beauty that lies in their hard work.


Photo by: senachautours


People keep asking me: when is the best time to travel to Saigon? When to visit Vietnam? If you, too, want to know what the climate is like in Ho Chi Minh City before you take the plane, here’s all the information you need about the weather in South Vietnam.


The climate of South Vietnam is subequatorial, meaning there are high year-round temperatures and two seasons – rainy and dry. So when is the best time of the year to travel to Saigon and Mekong Delta?


The offical dry season lasts from December to April. Temperatures are temperate at first but can climb up to 40°C at the end of April while remaining very humid. The rainy season in turn, which runs from May to November, is characterized by violent but brief showers.


The best time to visit Saigon runs from December to March

In Saigon, the annual average temperature is 27°C and never falls below 15°C. The best time to visit the city runs from December to March when it is dry and sunny. February is the month when it rains the least of the year while March and April are the hottest months with an average of 36 to 38°C.

Average temperature in Saigon through the year


If you are generally interested in the climate of Vietnam, check out our article about the best time to visit Vietnam. We also have a section about the weather of Hanoi, for those among you who are more into the North. Check it out!

The wettest period is from July to September

It’s not all doom and gloom though, as the rain can bring a welcome drop in temperature. The heaviest rains occur between mid-August and mid-September and many of the streets in the city will be flooded at this time.



This problem is exacerbated by the gradual sinking of the most populous city in Vietnam. Research has shown that Saigon is slowly sinking due to mass urbanization and excessive pumping of groundwater, with some places sinking up to 20 millimeters per year.


But the greatest threat comes from the coastline. 90% of the Mekong Delta and more than 20% of Ho Chi Minh City will be flooded by 2100 if the sea water level rises 1 meter.If you don’t have the choice about   holiday dates, we still recommend you to come to Vietnam, but you should prefer visiting areas such as Nha Trang where the rain is much lower. 





Some of the best views of Ho Chi Minh City are not necessarily where you might expect to find them. This is one of the most dramatic and vibrant cities in the world. Like most Asian capitals there is a sea change between day and night, as the street vendors change shifts, the shops wind down and the bars crank up. Some of the most drab looking buildings by day scrub up quite well at night; I give you the Times Square building. As the sun bids farewell to each day, the sky takes on hues of every description, due in no small part to the high levels of pollution. It does though make for a very beautiful sight.


So when it comes to viewing our wonderful home as the sun goes down, where are the best vantage points to view this daily phenomenon? Just where are the best views of Ho Chi Minh City as the sun goes down.


Thu Thiem Bridge

Without doubt for me, the best place to set up your camera and get that evocative Saigon Sundown shot is the Thu Thiem Bridge between Binh Thanh and An Phu. Each night hundreds of lovers ride out here and stand holding hands to marvel at the wonder, that is their city. This open display of pride happens every night of the week. Food vendors even set up now to cater for the crowd that ride onto the bridge, park up and take in the view. This is one of the best views of the city, looking west straight at District 1 as the sun goes down behind the skyscrapers.


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The Crescent Lake, District 7

The view out over the lake from Ton Dat Dien, The Crescent, is always a very pleasant lists, and as the sun drops it really does impress. The water goes from sparkling silver to black with a myriad of reflected lights flickering away. There are many bars and restaurants here, where you can sit through dusk and into night watching Mother Nature’s free show. Whether you prefer a cold beer, a cocktail or a glass of wine, there are plenty of venues from which to choose. 


Binh Quoi

This is a little way out of the city but on a pleasant evening provides more than a good experience. From Binh Thanh, take Xo Viet Nghe Tinh out towards Thu Duc. Make sure you keep right when the road forks. This brings you onto an island that is formed by one of the Saigon River’s huge meanderings. If you follow the road round and head for the south of the island you end up at one of the riverside restaurants that are basically directly over the river from District 2’s The Deck. Sitting right on the river as the sun goes down, enjoying the view out over District 2 with a cold beer in hand is as good as it gets; an oasis of calm in amongst all the chaos.


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Grand Café

The Grand Hotel is one of the truly iconic buildings of Ho Chi Minh City. This French Colonial masterpiece has been around since 1930. Perched on top of the twenty storey tower is the Grand Café. This is one of the few vantage points in the city that offers genuinely good city and river views. As the sun goes down the whole ambience changes. The views out to District 2 and Phu My Hung along the river are outstanding. At the same time the city skyscrapers feel so close you can almost touch them. The café welcomes a good clientele, a mix of office workers chilling out and holiday makers soaking up the views; the ambience is really good.

The bottom line is that there are many places in and around Ho Chi Minh City where you can see stunning sunsets. Apart from the myriad of rooftop bars and open spaces within the city centre, there are many more on the outskirts. Jump on your motorbike head out of town in any direction and as the sun starts to drop, the sky lights up and the show begins. Our city is a wonderful venue and when it starts to light up at night, it really does look its best.